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UMD Researchers Join Effort to Make Water, Nutrients Go Further on South Plains Farms

The University of Maryland is part of a new multi-institutional consortium announced Thursday to focus on improving water- and nitrogen-use efficiency for farmers while boosting soil health in the semi-arid southern Great Plains.

The nearly $10 million, five-year project led by Kansas State University and funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture aims to sustainably increase the productivity of rain-fed farms in the region.

Research Professor Cesar Izaurralde and Associate Research Professor Varaprasad Bandaru from the UMD Department of Geographical Sciences with Robert G. Chambers, professor of agricultural and resource economics, will lead the modeling and productivity analyses of the project.

The modeling team will develop a system to provide real-time information to farmers making decisions such as which crops to grow and when to plant them, the optimal nitrogen level of mid-season fertilization and whether to apply pest and disease control measures.

Chambers will evaluate the performance of current and novel rain-fed agricultural systems, identifying those that can lead to long-term economic, social and environmental viability.

“The project is expected to result in fundamental knowledge of beneficial crop rotations and crop management technologies, with the goal of developing resilient agricultural systems to improve food production in the U.S. and around the world,” Bandaru said.

Other institutions involved in the effort include the USDA Agricultural Research Service and Oklahoma State University.

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